Berlin (Germany) .– A winner but no chancellor. This is the first assessment of the German elections. The estimates given by German channels on Sunday early evening indeed gave the Social Democrat Olaf Scholz (SPD) and his conservative competitor Armin Laschet (CDU / CSU) in a pocket square, both around 25%.
Environmentalists would get nearly 15% of the vote. A score in clear improvement compared to their score in 2017 (8.9%), but which remains far from the expectations of the start of the campaign. The Liberals (FDP) hold on with around 11%. Die Linke, the radical left, is on the brink and does not know this Sunday evening if it will be able to stay in the Bundestag. Finally, the AfD score (far right) slows down to around 10%.
Whether Scholz or Laschet comes slightly ahead, the German political chessboard is in a situation of pat (when the game is blocked). Indeed, the results make it possible to compose three different coalitions, depending on the case, under the direction of Scholz or under that of Laschet.
Logically, the representatives of the two main parties each claimed in turn the right to form a government coalition. “We always knew it would be a close race. But the SPD is back. We have a mandate to govern. We want Olaf Scholz to be Chancellor ”, first declared the general secretary of the SPD Lars Klingbeil.
A few minutes later, CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak, who admitted that his party had recorded “Bitter losses”, came out in favor of a coalition called “Jamaican” (black, green, yellow): “According to current forecasts, there is the possibility of a ‘future coalition’ of the Conservative Union, the Greens and the FDP. “ CDU chief Armin Laschet confirmed this soon after: “We will do everything possible to form a federal government under the leadership of the Union”.
Is there a right to form a coalition, as Lars Klingbeil points out? Not really. Tradition has it that the candidate who wins an election considers that his first place qualifies him to form the coalition. This is usually the case when the results are clear.
But the German election rules do not mention any particular mandate. All that matters is the following rule: “Anyone who succeeds in uniting a majority coalition and being elected to the Bundestag is elected chancellor”, specifies the Berlin political scientist Andréa Römmele.
This situation suggests long and difficult negotiations since the two leaders, or their parties, will have to convince one or two other parties to join them. However, there is no need to look far. The two most likely political parties to form a coalition are the Liberals of the (FDP) and the Greens, who become “kingmakers”, capable of blocking everything, or of making possible a coalition led by the SPD or the CDU / CSU. Leaders of both parties confirmed their respective intentions to govern on Sunday evening.
For Uwe Jun, professor of political science at the University of Trier and expert on electoral issues, there are many points on which the two parties can find a compromise, but also some possible breaking points: “ On the central theme of the Greens, climate and environmental protection, the FDP is open on a lot of points. They are ready to negotiate an exit from coal before 2038, a tax on CO2 greater than expected, or an increase in support for renewable energies, for example via tax assistance. “
On all these subjects, but also on the acceleration of administrative procedures, on support for the electric car and on the increase in the supply of public transport, the Liberal Party should not block either. “But on taxation and on the issue of financing reforms, it will be more difficult”, comments Uwe Jun.
Budgetary discipline at the heart of the forthcoming negotiations
FDP President Christian Lindner explained that his minimum conditions were the reestablishment of the debt brake, suspended during the pandemic, and the absence of tax increases. Not surprisingly, the FDP also wants to negotiate tax breaks for companies and high wages. Finally, Lindner has nothing against social reforms in the area of housing, pensions and even the minimum wage. But there is no question of using public funds for this.
“It turns out that the Greens plan to finance part of the reforms via taxes on great fortunes and new indebtedness. The SPD too, but in different proportions, with the addition of an increase in taxes on high incomes ”, explains Uwe Jun, who is considering very tough negotiations in the event of a coalition with the Greens, the Liberals and the SPD.
The Greens and the SPD could also cling with the FDP on Europe. “The EU’s recovery plan against the Covid crisis is taking a wrong path to achieve a good goal”, explained Christian Lindner in 2020, specifying that he would vote for the plan but would fight so that this initiative leading to mutualising aid and debts does not happen again.
It is obvious that maintaining a German position centered on tough budgetary discipline would create serious turbulence between southern and northern Europe. “However, I am not sure that on the issue of European finances, the Greens, the SPD and the FDP will not be able to find a compromise, probably to the detriment of a budgetary integration policy as desired by France”, concludes Uwe Jun.
For his part, the boss of the German liberals does not hide that he is a candidate for the post of finance minister in a possible government. But the thing is far from being done. Because this strategic position, especially in European policy, is generally reserved for a representative of the largest party. In addition, Christian Lindner has a strong competitor: Robert Habeck, co-chairman of the environmental party, who has also made known his interest.
While waiting for the results and the scope of the election to become clearer, and for negotiations to begin, we can already list the political upheavals brought about by the departure of Angela Merkel. The Conservatives and the Greens, who were given the winners and parties to build a coalition, were each trapped in their own way. The CDU / CSU candidate believed he could run a Merkel-style campaign based on himself and with little content. But Laschet is not Merkel.
For their part, the Greens, carried by a poll and media bubble, believed themselves to be at the level of the major popular parties that are still the SPD and the CDU (in terms of number of activists and geographic base). They ultimately put themselves under pressure with overestimated goals.
The only party to have taken advantage of Merkel’s departure is in fact the SPD. By disappearing, the shadow of Angela Merkel has indeed allowed the Social Democratic Party to reappear, with a social government record that defends itself, wisely lined up in battle order behind a leader less to the left than his troops, but experienced and reassuring for the oldest voters, who are the ones who vote the most.